The commentary on Mipham's Sherab Raltri

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Ati ultimately accepts the madhyamaka viewpoint: Straying, deviation, misunder­standing; place where these can occur -gsum: clinging to bliss, clarity, and non-thought. -bzhi: Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche in LM: Misunderstanding the great primordial emptiness, one labels mind with conceptual negation. This is known as straying into the realm of conceptual shuunyata (emptiness). Not having faith in the ground and fruition of ordinary mind within oneself, one hopes for a new acquisition of the fruition of dharmakaya elsewhere. This is known as straying in regard to the path. Misunderstand­ing the way of self-liberation, one seeks antidotes elsewhere than in the kleshas themselves. This is known as straying in regard to the antidote. Thinking that all dharmas of apparent existence, sa.msara and nirvana, are merely shuunyata, one is stuck in a fixation of nihilism. This is known as straying into labeling."

goms: 1 Proficient, habituated, trained, skillful, adept, having mastered, accustomed, developed. 2 Paces, footsteps.

grol ba: Liberation, freedom, to liberate oneself or another, untying, releasing escaping from, recovering from illness, to end [a meeting]. to become non-existent [of things] = cease. —bzhi, the four kinds of liberation: shar grol, liberation on arising; gcer [cer] grol direct liberation; rang grol, self-liberation, and ye grol eternal liberation.

grub thob: Siddhi, accomplishment; siddha, the one who has such accomplishment. Absolute siddhi is enlightenment. The relative siddhis involve miraculous displays of power over phenomena, the higher perceptions, mngon shes qv., and the like.

gsal ba: Clear, clearly appearing, clearly explained, luminous. See 'od gsal.

gtad med: Not solid, shifty, offering no fixed or steady reference point. KPSR. VCTR.

gtan la 'bebs pa: Establish, resolve with certainty, determine, settle, clarify, put in order, usually of doctrines.

gzhan stong: Empty of other. In shentong philosophy it is said: Foundation, ground, basis, object [-ive support] basic nature, = buddha nature (sugatagarbha, the Space of insight) , source, subject. — gzhi: the thing which is . (eg. stong gzhi, the thing which is empty.) —grub, established foundation. —rten ground and support, foundation = gzhi. —lam 'bras: ground, path, and fruition: Eg. the ground, one's nature, sugata­garbha, emptiness possessing all the supreme characteristics, is the nature as cause and ground. Therefore, one can practice the path of the buddhadharma in the ways described in this text, and attain the fruition, enlightenment, the manifestation of the kayas and wisdoms and so forth. This text is presented in that order.

gzhi gnas: 1 Intrinsically present, abiding in the ground, gzhi gnas ye shes gsum qv. 2 Shamatha meditation: One-pointed meditation on an object, most often the breath. It is a means of cutting through conceptualizations and attachments so that one can experience the basic self-existing nature.

gzhi med: Groundless. Things are mere appearance of what does not exist. Cf. med pa gsal snang, stong gzugs, rten med. KPSR.

gzugs brnyan: Reflection. Ordinarily we think of reflections as reflections of something that is not itself a reflection, such as the moon in water, or "reflected" in visual experience. But here all phenomena are "reflections" in that they arise interdependently. The external moon is a considered to be a projected, false conception, with even less reality than the experienced one, and so forth. Whatever arises is experienced as empty, in something like the way we experience the moon in water now, or like the way we experience a dream, when we know we are dreaming.

gzugs sku: Ruupakaya. The two form kayas sambhogakaya and nirmana­kaya, constituting the benefit for others. See trikaya.

gzung 'dzin: Usu. Abbr. gzung ba'i yul dang 'dzin pa'i sems: Fixated or grasped object , gzung ba and fixating or grasping mind, 'dzin pa; illusory, sa.msaric fixations of independent, truly existing subjects and objects. VCTR translated this "grasping and fixation," rather than the more com­mon "subject and object." One reason is that enlight­enment in ati is not envisioned, as sometimes in hinayana, as nihilistic cessation of experience of subject and object; nor, as in mind-only, as their becoming one thing. The enlightened object is the kayas, emptiness possessing all the supreme aspects. Theenlightened subject is insight-wisdom. They can be said to be inseparable and non-dual, so that this perception is self-insight of itself. But for ati this state is also the great emptiness beyond existence and non-existence, beyond mind and no-mind etc. Ati accepts the madhyamaka claim that no predicates can adequately describe absolute reality. So it is beyond the absolute mind of mind-only. Thus, VCTR used "grasping and fixation" to indicate that enlight­enment tran­scended confused conceptualiza­tions of the perceiver and the per­ceived. Those who translate gzung 'dzin gnyis med, as [with nei­ther]­[without the duality of] subject and object are in general aware of these considerations, so that in the end there need be no fundamental disagreement. VCTR some­times used these terms so that they seemed to refer to a simulta­neous co-dependence of subject and object, and sometimes spoke of a successive occur­rence of the subject-object split, gzung ba, followed by mental grasping, 'dzin pa. Obviously one should not mix the two usages.

It is traditionally said that the shravakas realize the non-existence of ­ gzung 'dzin, of the individual ego, and that pratyekabuddhas also realize half-egolessness of dharmas by realizing the non-existence of gzung but not of 'dzin. KPSR explains that this means that there is no individual ego ('dzin) and therefore no objects (gzung) that have a substantial, causal, or any other kind of dependence to it. Pratyekabuddhas are said to realize interdependent arising, according to the twelve links of interdependent arising and so forth. Therefore, they realize that dharmas of the external world do not exist with an independent nature of their own. They view them as aspects of the experience of a perceiver. However such a perceiver is not an individual ego. Such a view is very like mind-only, or perhaps some versions of Sautrantika Abhidharma that anticipate mind-only. cf. BPTP. Bodhisattvas have full realization of emptiness, and therefore do not accept the grasper of dharmas as truly existing any more than those dharmas themselves.

gzung: V. gzung 'dzin.

theg pa dgu: the nine vehicles

I. Hinayana:

1 shravaka yana nyan thos, the hearers or disciples. This is the monastic buddhism taught by the nirmanakaya. It emphasizes the four noble truths: Life is full of suffering, this arises from the causal setup of dharmas, skandhas etc, which are transient without any enduring self. But given this situation, suffering too depends on a transient setup and cessation is possible. This is achieved by means of the eightfold path, right view, speech, thought, action, livelihood, exertion, mindfulness and samadhi. By learning to be there, doing everything properly and mindfully, one cuts off the suffering arising from the speed, clinging, and desire for self-aggrandizement of ego, and attains enlightenment. One relearns like a baby to sit, eat, and walk like a buddha. Practicing shamatha and vipashyana, zhi gnas and lhag mthong, one learns to have the buddha mind. And yet it is said, the fathers dwell in complete humility.

2 Pratyekabuddha yana, rang rgyal: The basic physical setup has already been determined. Here solitary yogins traditionally unlock the development of mind in sa.msara and nirvana, seeing how the skandhas, phung po, develop. Contemplat­ing a corpse, one reasons backward through birth and craving etc to ignorance, the ultimate cause of life's sufferings. Cutting craving and attachment to externals, the yogin realizes the self sufficiency of one's ultimate nature. Letting this be as buddhahood is maitri, the ultimate kindness to oneself. In ati tradition the account given sounds very like the view of mind-only. It is said that the yogin realizes the emptiness of individual ego and of objects other than mind, but not of mind itself. Pratyekabuddha solitariness betrays a subtle remainder of belief in the independence and separability of self and other, which is basic to ego.

I. Mahayana, theg pa chen po:

3 Bodhisattvayana, byang chub sems dpa'i theg pa: Here madhya­maka emptiness is realized. In ati tradition the emphasis is not nihilistic. Rather the nature of enlightened mind glimpsed in mind-only is seen to have always been universal and unobstructed. The skandhas and so forth which cause suffering are seen to be like mere temporary clouds on the face of the basic nature, sugatagarbha. Therefore, with great joy one enters the path of the bhuumis that goes beyond sa.msara. As self and other do not exist, there is no boundary between maitri and compassion for all sentient beings. Yet this path is not trod by turning away from the phenomenal world, but rather relating to all situations fully as expressions of the ultimate nature. This is like the mindfulness of the eightfold path, but now it is unleashed in emptiness. It manifests as the practice of the ten paramitas, by which finally the proper manifestation of the body, speech, and mind, buddhahood, trikaya, is attained. However there can be a problem here. For example, the elder Vimalakirti was totally devoted to virtue and saving others. He goes among sewer-like dens of thieves and whores and was not corrupted. But the whole human world still looked like a sewer inhabited by perverts and criminals. One may see the absolute and the natural world as pure, and still have no pure vision of the relative altogether and of human society. So even with the vision of sugatagarbha and the paramitas, relative existence is something of a crude joke, a pot of night-soil. Hence the need for vajrayana.

II. Vajrayana, rdo rje theg pa:

A. the outer tantras, phyi rgyud:

4 kriya yoga, kri ya, bya rgyud, the tantra of action): Here we find that within us there is also the sacredness of the vajra world, the sambhogakaya world of pure perception inhabited by deities, who are like kings and queens with their palaces and retinues. Because they have become totally egoless, everything they do is pure, sacred, and immensely powerful. In fact we encounter this world by relating to the guru's world, which invokes this pure aspect of ourselves. At first we may feel rather like stupid, filthy monkeys in relation to this world. We cannot participate as equals, but only as spectators. However, if we surrender ourselves to this as devoted servants, there is a possibility of becoming part of the vajra world. That is the logic of kriya. Meanwhile one can purify oneself and one's basic energies in hopes of becoming a decent vajra-citizen. In kriya this is very literal, with many baths and changes of clothes, white food, etc.

5 Upa, The most basic difference as we progress to upa through the outer tantras is that one begins the relate to the deity as a friend. Oneself is samayasattva, the deity is jñanasattva, the real thing, who is sending his wisdom down on us, and the pretence of being of that nature seems less and less preposterous.

6 yoga: Finally we truly realize that the deity, who represents the nature of the guru's vajra world, also is our own true nature as well. So we can actually become mahasukha princes and princesses of the five families. That is the fruition of the yoga yana. The five skandhas etc. have been transmuted into the perfection of the five wisdoms.

B. The inner tantras:

But even here there is a subtle reference point of perfection, wisdom-message, divinity and so forth, vs. something imperfect, unwise and so forth that is co-emergently ignored. Hence the further journey of the inner tantras that transcend reference point altogether.

7 Maha: Here there is much more confidence in situations as embodying the continuity of the self-existing fruition mandala. For example, in the eight heruka mandala, bka'.brgyad, the herukas are less embodi­ments of ideas, than means of cutting through such concep­tu­alizations. Yangdag yang dag, the vajra heruka punctures concepts with a scepter like a pin, reveal­ing naked space The ratna heruka is the King of Death , shi rje, with an owl. Hayagriva and Vajrakil­aya, rta mgrin/ rdo rje phur ba, the padma and karma herukas, reveal naked passion and aggression. etc. This yana emphasizes the visualiza­tions of the developing stage, bsked rim.

8 In comparison to this complex network of divine forces:, a sort of tibetan cabala, anu, is relatively simplified, in essence one sees every­thing as the union of primordial space and wisdom, eg. the bliss of union of Samantabhadra and Samanta­bhadri in their cosmic dance. The complexities of the lower yanas are largely removed. The means for doing this is the practice of the fulfillment stage, and in particular, the yoga of nadi, prana and bindu.

9 Ati is like the punch line, and doesn't make proper sense without the other yanas. All remaining conceptualizations are stripped away so that the fruition becomes completely naked and self existing. As the text says, this is how it is for one who has done all the work. One can say to a superbly trained musician etc,“Just let go and do it,” and hope to hear beauti­ful music. If one gives the same advice to a person without musical training, this result is unlikely. Thus ati traditionally functions as the framework and culmination of the nine yana train­ing, as a means for removing nirvanic neurosis and so on. It is not generally meant as a complete program in its own right. Most distortions of ati come from ignoring this.

ji lta ba'i ye shes: Wisdom of the absolute nature of everything as it is, ie. as the great emptiness.

ji snyed pa'i ye shes: Wisdom of extent; ji snyed = as much as there is, whatever kinds, as suitable; omniscient qualitative wisdom of all phenomena as they are, discriminating all details without confusion.

ka dag: Primordial purity, purity from the start.

kha ldog lnga: Blue, white, yellow, red, and green, the colors of the five families and elements.

khams/ 'byung ba bzhi: these are the 5 minus space.

khams bco brgyad: The eighteen khams, dhatus, (classes of dharmas) are the six sense powers, dbang po, indriyas, including the mano-dhatu or, yid kyi dbang po, the faculty of intellect; the six sense-objects, yul, vishaya, including the dharmadhatu, here in its original sense = the realm of non-sensu­ous, intellectual objects; and the six conscious­nesses including the manovijñana or intellectual sense. The conscious­ness of touch is called the kaya conscious­ness, meaning here "of solid bodies." the six senses, their six objects, and the six conscious­nesses of those objects. Here "dharma," in a special sense, means intellectual object, and dharmadhatu is the realm of such objects, analogous to the realm of colors, sounds, etc.

khams gsum: Three worlds. 1 The desire realm, the realm of material form. 2 Pure non-material form, the realm of the impure visions of dreams, and those of the god realms; and the pure ones of meditation, such as visions of the sambhoga­kaya deities. 3 The formless realm [objectless space, time, conscious­ness, neither perception nor non-perception.]

khams: 1 Element, dhatu, realm. 2 Disposition of individual personali­ty; the nature of something, sim. rang bzhin; the elements. Eg. the khams of fire is heat. Such natures are partial vs. 3 the basic nature = rigs (gotra) = sugatagarbha, buddha nature. potential or seed; semen.

khong yangs pa: [Innerly] vast or wide open, open minded, to perceive or understand.

khra lam: Vivid, clear, bright, splendid.

khrol khrol: Bright, sparkling (cf. khrol po) (loud or rumbling of musical instruments); insubstantial, unobstructed (cf. khral khrol); LUS: Continuously liberated (cf. ­ bkrol ba).

khyab 'jug: Hindu god. Of the threw Bhrama, Vishnu and Shiva, responsible for maintaining the universe. He has a number of incaranations such as Krishna, and according to the Hindus, the Buddha.

klong: Space (capitalized in text) expanse, sphere, realm of..., mass, immensity vastness, scope or boundaries. —gyur: attaining perfection or mastery. —chen, immense space or knowledge = dharmadhatu —chen rab 'byams: realization of vast universal Space or knowledge = Longchenpa. —zer, : nail of space. See gzer.

Longchenpa says in LT that klong can be differentiated from dbyings as the space of ultimate mind vs. that of the universal ground. VCTR differentiated them by comparing dbyings to the vastness of contemplating the horizon from the seashore. Klong is more like skydiving in the middle of the night. He was referring in particular to the black klong experience of the forty-nine day bardo retreat in darkness. Here Space is beyond reference points of vastness and constraint.

klu: Naga, water spirit, serpent [deity]. Living in low watery places and caverns, they are often associated with the lower aspects of the human situation, either those which are necessary, but not exalted, or those which are dark, evil and poisonous. Thus they are associated with skin diseases such as leprosy. In this aspect, they are the enemy of garuda. However, they are said to have great wealth, and to have received the wisdom of the prajñaparamita from the Buddha, guarding it until Nagarjuna, klu grub, could receive them. Also the nagas protected Buddha from attacks of the maras on the night before his enlightenment.

kri ya [rgyud]: Kriya tantra, = bya rgyud, the fourth yana. see theg pa dgu.

kun btags: False conception, parikalpita, the merely imputed or illlusory nature of external reality projected onto mind-only, which has no true existence at all, like space.

kun byed rgyal po: The all-creating (doing, accomplishing) King, title of the main scripture of the Semdé. The King = bodhicitta, personified as Samantabhadra qv. His attributes are explained at length in the text. The King also is one's true enlightened nature.

kun gzhi rnam gsum: the neutral alaya, alaya of various habitaul patterns, alaya of reality.

kun gzhi rnam par shes pa: Alayavijñana: Universal ground- consciousness. See rnam shes brgyad.

kun gzhi: Alaya: Universal ground. See rnam shes brgyad.

kun mkhyen ye shes: The omniscient wisdom of enlightenment, which sees all phenomena without mixing them up. cf. ji snyed ye shes.

kun rdzob: Relative, conventional, obscured (in the sense of disguised or costumed) truth, as opposed to don dam, absolute truth. Various systems have different views of what constitutes the relative. See bden gnyis. —gnyis, the two aspects of the relative are, [yang] dag pa'i kun rdzob and log pa'i kun rdzob. Sometimes these refer to ordinary right and wrong judgements within the everyday sphere. In this text they differentiate the confused perception of sa.msara and the perception of enlightenment which sees things as they are. yang dag is sometimes called absolute truth, but the sense is different from, though not in conflict with the absolute truth of emptiness, which it presupposes.

kun tu bzang po [mo]: Samantabhadra [-i] literally means total or universal goodness. In mahayana Samantabhadra is one of the eight main bodhisattvas, an emanation of Vajrasattva. In sadhanas the environment is purified as pure appearance by the Samantabhadra offerings, in which offerings of desirable things of the five sense objects are visualized like clouds filling the whole of space. In ati Samantabhadra is the first, primordial buddha, who spontaneously achieved understanding of his own nature as universal enlightenment. His consort is Samantabhadri. Usually he is blue, she is white, and they are naked. The text presents this in detail. When Samanta­bhadra is united with his consort Samantabhadri, she symbolizes the primordial space of the empty essence, dharmadhatu and prajñaparamita. He symbolizes pure arising in that space of entities that do not go beyond its nature. Samantabhadra does not exist as an ego or individual being, but = buddhahood, one's own true nature. Therefore, all who are enlightened are said to be equal to him. The “I” of the Künjé, who is the all-creating King, is Samanta­bhadra. He may be considered the essence of all that is sacred. Ati might say that this is the real concern of all religions and their deities. Some have wondered whether Samantabhadra as lha and bdag chen, big mind, the great self, was not like God in the western sense. I think this is true in a sense. Bdag pa chen po is the great mind beyond ego and non-ego, or self and other, and even God and atheism. In theory the via negativa of Dionysius and “God is not a what” of Aquinas are compatible with this. If there are theists who have no problem with God being emptiness and not something removed by a gap from what we really are, so be it.

lag na rdo rje: bodhiattva who is the lord of secret vajra teachings.

lam bgrod: Treading, traversing the path.

lam lnga: The five paths. These will vary somewhat with different systems. 1) Accumulation, tshogs lam: One accumulates merit and wisdom and avoids confusion and evil deeds so that one will escape the lower realms and enlightenment will eventually manifest. The four foundations of mindfulness are practiced and developed in shamatha. This leads to the clear seeing of vipashyana. 2) Preparation (unification), sbyor lam, Developing vipashyana, one develops a deep understanding of the four noble truths, cutting the root of the desire realm. 3) Seeing, mthong.lam: The practitioner comes to understand the unsatisfactoriness of all the realms of form, including the god realm. Direct vision of emptiness is seen. This conveys the essence of liberation, and one enters the first bhuumi, supremely joyful. 4) Meditation, sgom lam: Practicing meditation and relating to the phenomenal world through the paramitas, pha rol tu phyin pa, one attains the second through tenth bhuumis. This culminates in the vision of luminosity and wisdom. 5) Fulfillment or no more learning, mthar phyin or mi slob, Attaining the vajra-like samadhi the practitioner enters the eleventh bhuumi, prabhasvara, kun tu 'od, the complete luminosity of buddhahood. See JOL.

lam: The practitioner's way to enlightenment as taught by the Buddha, the method of practice, “the path” = the buddhadharma altogether. —khyer, make something into the path, practice, bring something to the path. eg. one can use kleshas as a means of practice in various ways.

las rlung: Karmic energy, karma prana, as opposed to ye shes rlung, the energy of wisdom.

las: 1 From, as, which is, instead of, rather than. 2) Karma.

lha min: jealous gods who are enemies of the gods, one of the six realms of existence, rigs drug

lha: Deities, the divine, the level of things that are exalted. Sometimes buddhist scriptures accept the existence of the entire hindu pantheon on deities as the highest sort of temporarily existing beings. The deities of sadhana, yidams, protectors, buddhas and bodhisattvas (such as Samantabhadra in this text) sometimes seem to be approached as beings having a personal existence, and sometimes as principles of the energies of one's mind and the phenomena of the world. In any case they are ultimately empty of essence. Buddhahood is eternal, but a certain being Samantabhadra was first to realize it. Doing so, he ceased to be merely personal. We too can become what he became. It is not the existence and nonexistence of deities that differentiates Buddhism from “theistic” religions. It is that the whole issue shifts elusively, leaving one nothing to rely on, so that one is just left hanging. The “theism” that Buddhism eschews has less to do with accepting and worshipping deities than trying to fix the reference points of one's universe through conceptual idolatry. This the great theistic religions also decry. Fixating emptiness and nihilism about any divine nature in any sense is part of that “theism.”

It has sometimes been noted that Buddhism sometimes makes statements, eg. about Chakrasa.mvara or Samantabhadra, that are indistinguishable from those theistic dogmatists make. But since these perspectives are not fixated, but seen in the context of the great emptiness, they become a commentary on the phenomenological possibilities of religion. Such openness is the very reverse of cultish dogmatism (or should be). Here one can compare what Longchenpa says about the difference between the use of sems tsam terminology to establish metaphysical and spiritual dogmas and the use in ati to go beyond them.

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